Demystifying London’s Gold & Silver Vault HoldingsBy Neil Harby, Chief Technical Officer, London Bullion Market Association
Published on September 25, 2017
The LBMA vault holding data outlined in Figure 1 represent the volume of Loco London gold and silver held in the London vaults offering custodian services. As at 31 March 2017 there were 7,449 tonnes of gold, valued at US$298 billion and 32,078 tonnes of silver valued at US$19 billion. This equates to approximately 596,000 gold bars and 1,069,255 silver bars.
There are currently seven custodians offering vaulting services (all of which are LBMA members):
- Four security carriers: Brinks, G4S Cash Solutions (UK), Malca-Amit and Loomis International (UK) Ltd); and
- Three clearing banks: HSBC, ICBC Standard Bank and JP Morgan.
In addition the Bank of England (not an LBMA member) also offers gold (but not silver) custodial services to central banks and certain commercial firms that facilitate central bank access to the liquidity of the London gold market. Those clearing banks without their own vault operations – Scotiabank and UBS – utilise their accounts with one of the LBMA custodians or the Bank of England (BoE) and therefore do not contribute to these statistics to avoid double accounting.
The physical holdings of precious metals held in the London vaults underpin the gross daily trading and net clearing in London. The net clearing is undertaken by the members of the London Precious Metals Clearing Limited (LPMCL). London is the largest gold trading centre in the world as demonstrated by the US$18.1 billion worth of gold which was cleared on average each day in March 2017 (Source: LBMA net daily clearing statistics).
According to the Fair and Effective Markets Review1,
“…in markets where OTC trading remains the preferred model, authorities and market participants should continue to explore the scope for improving transparency, in ways that also enhance effectiveness.”
Publication of aggregate physical holdings is the first step in reporting for the London Precious Metals Market. The next step is trade reporting. The collection of trade data will add transparency to the market and provide gross turnover for the loco London market. Previously, gross turnover had been calculated from one-off surveys or estimated from the clearing statistics.
The BoE started publishing its monthly gold holding figures in January 20172. It stores allocated gold on behalf of its customers (custodian service) which include the UK Government, other central banks and commercial banks. BoE data are included in the LBMA statistics shown below.
- The data is reported monthly (three months in arrears).
- The data represents the holdings on the last day of the month.
- The LBMA dataset starts from July 2016, which coincides with the current set of custodians being established.
- Loco simply relates to the place or location at which a commodity is physically held, e.g. Loco London gold. Precious metals held within the environs of the M25 are considered to be Loco London.
- All physical forms of metal are included: large wholesale bars, coin, kilo bars and small bars. The data only includes physical metal held within the London environs and does not include precious metals physical holdings readily available at short notice in other secure overseas vaulting facilities.
- Jewellery and other private holdings held by retailers, individuals and smaller vaults not included in the London Clearing system are not included in the numbers.
- Conversion factor: 1 gram = 0.0321507465 troy ounces.
This article appeared in the August 2017 (edition 86) issue of LBMA’s newletter The Alchemist
- For further details see http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/markets/Pages/fmreview.aspx
- See http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/what/Pages/gold.aspx for these data.